Going Green while Creating Jobs for People on the Spectrum
Imagine turning used toys into a sustainable green business that creates employment for people with autism and other challenges. PreLOVED Toys Inc., a San Francisco Bay Area 501(c)(3) nonprofit, proposes to do just that. Discouraged by the lack of full time employment opportunities for my college-educated son who has Asperger syndrome, and so many others like him, I thought there had to be a solution.
Sadly, 85% of high functioning people with autism are unemployed or underemployed. Talking to a friend who was overwhelmed by her children’s outgrown toys, but not wanting them to end up in landfills, I came up with the idea for PreLOVED Toys, Inc.
Our solution is to pick up donated used toys at local schools where parents can conveniently drop them off and repair, sanitize, and repackage toys so they are safe and ready for a new life. We then sell the toys at local stores who will gain good publicity for supporting a green business and for helping create jobs in our community.
The more I investigated where toys are manufactured (88% in China) and the amount of energy, natural resources, labor law violations, and pollution involved with their creation, the more I was convinced that toys could have a longer life and people with autism in our community could have employment opportunities.
The jobs we create will entail cleaning toys, research, sales and marketing, inventory management, etc. We will have a variety of jobs appropriate to various skills and interests, job training, flexible schedules, and long-term employment opportunities. We are committed to paying our staff a competitive wage, while expressly keeping overhead expenses low.
To test our business model, we held toy drives at local elementary schools. The response was overwhelming! Not only did we receive many wonderful toys but parents thanked us for making it easy for them to donate toys to a worthwhile cause. The school principal used the toy dive as a means to teach students how they can help the environment as well as help create job opportunities for people with autism.
The next step was to see if people would purchase used toys. We had a booth at a local Art and Wine Festival in June. People were very impressed with the quality of our toys and very supportive of our double goal to provide jobs for people with autism and keep toys out of landfills. We sold over 170 toys in two days and people contacted us after the festival asking where they could purchase additional toys. Many customers told us they appreciated the opportunity to purchase used toys as a way to minimize their carbon footprint. We have also successfully sold toys online.
Our next goal is to open up our first workshop, hire our first employees, and turn donated toys into toys ready for a new life. The success of our first community program is essential to our ultimate success. Once our initial program is up and running smoothly we plan to expand our workshops across the country. More workshops equals more jobs which means more lives transformed. As Temple Grandin said, “If I did not have my work, I would not have any life.”
We have an exciting idea, a great business model, and community interest. Want to help turn our dream into reality? We are looking for volunteers who have time and energy to help make a positive change! We need a Business Operations Manager to grow the business, a Fundraising Manager to build and execute our fundraising strategy, and a Marketing Manager to contact stores about selling our toys. In addition we need workspace in Marin County, CA in which to operate our first workshop. Tax deductible monetary donations are very helpful and can be made on our website www.prelovedtoys.com. Please contact Susan Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org if you like to be involved or if you have any questions about PreLOVED Toys. Unfortunately we can’t accept more toys until we open up our first workshop.
Employing adults with autism through the sale of pre loved toys.
Susan Sullivan, co-founder of PreLOVED Toys Inc., is mom to a wonderful 31-year- old son who has Asperger syndrome. He has an older sister and brother. His sister Sarah, who has an MBA, has been volunteering her help to get PreLOVED Toys up and running. Susan has a background in sales, marketing, and graphic design.
This article was featured in Issue 39 – Working Together to Communicate Better